Happy couple sitting on beach

How to build on a happy relationship
(it could help you live longer)

What’s the key to happiness?

A huge amount of research goes into this field, with so much of it consistently showing that happiness is closely linked to the quality of our relationships.

Take the famous Grant and Glueck studies, for example. These research projects are unlike any other — one of them has been going continuously for an incredible 80 years!

Commissioned by Harvard University, the Grant study closely examined a group of men throughout the decades in an attempt to determine what kept people healthy. One of its ultimate aims was to find out what led to a happy and fulfilling life.

The conclusion? It’s not fame, money or even our physical health that make us happy in the long term. What matters is the quality of our close relationships. Basically, love.

This was illustrated in one of the study’s most remarkable findings: both financial success and physical health were closely linked with the warmth and strength of our relationships. Good genes, it seems, helped, as did a good education — but they weren’t the main factor.


As the Harvard Gazette put it:

“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board…”


How to stay happy

If good relationships equal happiness, then it makes sense that working on improving our relationships is likely to lead to further happiness.

There are many ways in which we can always improve. Here are some tips.


Be your best at listening

Working on our communication and listening skills is something we can do every day. Many of us forget is that communication is not just about how to say and articulate what you’re feeling and thinking — good listening skills are a vital part of good communications.


Actively work on intimacy

Intimacy is crucial to maintaining those feelings of ‘closeness’ in a relationship. It can take many forms.

Intimacy can be verbal, such as telling your partner or spouse why or what you love about them. It can be expressed physically through sex or physical affection, or it can take the form of doing special things for the other person.


Have your own identity

Maintain and build a supportive network of friends outside the relationship. You can love someone to bits, but no single relationship will meet every need.

Regular down time and time alone is also important. This gives you space to recharge and re-balance. This allows you to give more in your relationship in the long-run.

People in healthy and happy relationships know that they can depend on each other, but they are still autonomous and can make their own decisions.


Talk about mental health (when you need to)

One in five Australians experience a mental health disorder each year. That’s a sizeable portion of the population. We all know that talking about it helps. If you or your loved feels anxious, down, worried or concerned, try to talk it out.

There are many great resources on how to talk to someone about mental health. Among other benefits, it can help you avoid relationship problems further down the track.


Actively work to improve your mood and outlook

Most people occasionally experience stress, anger or frustration. While it’s normal to experience these negative feelings from time to time, problems can arise if this occurs often or in excess.

These negative feelings are often due to something beyond our control. If that’s the case, recognise that you cannot control the problem — but you probably can control to some extent how you respond.

If you find that you often experience anger, identify your anger warning signs and work on techniques for keeping your cool. Exercise and sleep have tremendous benefits on mental health. And if you need some time out? Why not give mindfulness a go.


Don’t take everything too seriously

Learn not to take things too seriously. This includes yourself, your relationship and life in general. Of course these things are all important to a healthy and happy life, but sometimes we need to take the time to relax.


Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.